The World’s Best Train Trip Companies (Glacier Express, The Canadian…)

of 1

If you’ve ever been stuck on a slow, busy commuter train you might not relish the prospect of long train journeys. But actually some of the most romantic, fascinating trips in the world use trains. Trips across whole continents and shorter trips in exclusive destinations make the most of the fact that trains are powerful, comfortable and somewhat flexible to take passengers through the heart of landscapes which they could not otherwise easily enjoy. The best train trips in the world come at a variety of costs and journey lengths. Having travelled on many myself, as well as speaking with train enthusiasts and planning with the website Seat 61, I can share with you the world’s best train trips.

The Trans-Siberian Express

There is no other train journey on earth like the Trans-Siberian Express. Pulling nightly out of Moscow, the train covers thousands of miles of territory before arriving on the eastern shore of the country six or so days later. The name is given to a variety of trains plowing the route but they follow most of the same direction, with one train a week continuing into North Korea on what is the world’s longest scheduled train journey. The distance covered is immense and in fact the train is surprisingly fast. It is also punctual, pulling out of most stations on the dot, although as the railways use Moscow time it becomes more confusing as you get more and more time zones away from Moscow but the timetable does not. Each carriage has its own attendant who keeps it spotless, maintains order and barks at miscreants although underneath the stern veneer they are often friendly,. The voyage is mostly through the wooded vastness of Siberia but you can stop en route at cities like Irkutsk and the beautiful Lake Baikal.

The Canadian

Canada has a number of great train trips but none gives you a better glimpse of the nation that The Canadian. Pulling out of Vancouver’s old station in the heart of its downtown, you have cocktails in the dining car as you wind through the suburbs. For the next day you have stunning views oif the Rockies. Occasional station stops are long enough for you to stretch your legs and maybe even quickly explore towns like Jasper and have a quick bite with the locals. The dining car is a social hub of the train, with a talented team preparing unpretentious but delicious Canadian staples in two sittings per meal. During the trip they also organise a variety of activities, such as Canadian wine tasting. The train is often delayed due to very long freight trains taking precedence on the route. That gives you more time to sit back, relax far from cellphone reception and enjoy the views until you start to thread into the outer suburbs of the final destination, Toronto.   

Glacier Express

Switzerland is famed for stunning mountain views and engineering, so it will be no surprise that it has an incredible train with breathtaking Alpine scenery outside. The Glacier Express threads its way solidly but carefully through some of the country’s incredible high altitude scenery. Snow capped mountains and fresh air can be seen in every direction, while picture perfect small towns form the station stops of this unforgettable route. Its specially built panoramic viewing cars offer you the perfect location from which to take in the most of the ride. This is only a short journey of seven and a half hours but its memory will stay with you forever.

Empire Builder

You might be surprised to hear that one of the world’s best train trips is offered by Amtrak – but it is. Following  decades of tradition, every day the Empire Builder pulls out of Chicago’s railway station and heads to the Pacific Northwest. The exact route varies, with a fork at Spokane meaning the train splits for both Spokane and Portland. This is not the most luxurious long-distance train, although it is more comfortable than most Amtrak services. What really sets it apart is the amazing views the two day journey offers from the heartland of America to the pristine northwest. It’s also an express, moving along at speeds as high as eighty miles per hour at times.

The Orient Express

No list of the world’s best train trips would be complete without mention of the Orient Express. The vintage carriages sparkle, with immaculately uniformed staff catering to passengers’ every need. Heading from Paris or London out towards eastern Europe, most trips take two or three days. The food and drink onboard is on a par with some of the best restaurants in Europe. The ambience and air of intrigue in the storied train means  that no matter how many times you are lucky enough to ride on the Orient Express, every trop is unforgettable. Train trips are part of the everyday fabric of life but they can also be incredible and memorable. Many train trips offer a unique opportunity to see new places in style and comfort, with your transportation doubling up as your accommodation. You don’t need to worry about baggage allowances or airport stress. Above I’ve shared some of my favourite routes after years travelling the world by train. If you could choose one for your next big trip, which would you choose?